No. 9 Huskers’ defensive outing best in a decade

It might have been a first for the Brothers Pelini: Neither one

could find a nit to pick in ninth-ranked Nebraska’s defensive

performance against Kansas.

Granted, the Kansas offense the Blackshirts dominated in

Saturday’s 20-3 victory is the worst in the Big 12, that 35-point,

fourth-quarter outburst against Colorado a week earlier

notwithstanding.

It didn’t matter to defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, whose

charges held the Jayhawks to 87 total yards and five first

downs.

”I’ve never been involved in anything close to that,” Pelini

said. ”These days in college football, teams are hanging up 700

yards. So to hold a team to 200 or 300 is considered a good

defensive game. Holding a team to 87 yards is unbelievable.”

Coach Bo Pelini had said before the season that this year’s

defense could be better than the 2009 unit led by Associated Press

national player of the year Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard and

Larry Asante.

Fans who have been waiting to see what Bo was talking about

finally saw it in the Huskers’ 10th game.

Jared Crick, the Big 12’s preseason defensive player of the

year, and Baker Steinkuhler led a big push up front that helped

produce six sacks of Quinn Mecham. Crick had nine tackles and two

sacks and Steinkuhler seven tackles.

Linebacker Lavonte David had 10 stops, including two sacks, for

his sixth double-digit tackle game. David forced Kansas punts with

big third-down tackles on four of Kansas’ first five

possessions.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, playing for the first time since

sustaining a concussion Oct. 30 against Missouri, had his fourth

interception.

”I thought we had a good mix of blitz, four-man pressure,” Bo

Pelini said. ”Our guys executed and did what they were taught to

do. We covered well down on the field, and I thought we did a lot

of good things in that phase of the game.

”I didn’t see a guy out there defensively who didn’t play well.

You don’t hold somebody to that type of yardage without playing

well across the board.”

Of course, there’s a caveat.

”With that being said, I’m sure there are a lot of things we

could be better at and we could fix,” he said. ”There is always

room for improvement, trust me.”

But without looking at the film, Bo couldn’t put his finger on

one thing, and neither could his older brother.

Kansas’ 87 yards on 47 plays were the fewest by a Nebraska

opponent since Baylor managed just 84 yards on 56 plays in 2000. No

team had fewer first downs against the Huskers since Kansas had

four in 1997.

The Jayhawks’ yardage was their fewest since they gained 67

against Texas in 2001.

”It felt pretty good because our defense was just swarming

everywhere to the ball and trying to cause turnovers,” Dennard

said. ”Coach was talking before the game that he just wanted to

play a good, pressured defensive game, and that’s what it

was.”

Carl Pelini said he was most impressed with how the Huskers

reacted to new schemes the Jayhawks showed. Kansas employed several

different formations, had Mecham take snaps out of the pistol, ran

Brad McDougald out of the wildcat and used big personnel on spread

plays.

”Just like every week, it seems like people are throwing the

kitchen sink at us,” Pelini said. ”The guys are kind of used to

it now, knowing we’re not going to play on Saturday against the

offense we’re practicing against.”

The Huskers (9-1, 5-1) play at 18th-ranked Texas A&M (7-3,

4-2) this week. A win would lock up a second straight Big 12 North

title.

Carl Pelini said he hopes his defense builds off its performance

when it faces Ryan Tannehill and the No. 18 Aggies’ rejuvenated

offense. The rest will take care of itself, he said.

”You prepare and work hard and study your assignments and

technique and try to get better every day,” he said. ”It’s the

teams that start thinking about all that other (stuff) – bowl games

and BCS and conferences and all that – those are the teams that get

nipped, right?”